Genomics Cracks Soybean Code
January 21, 2010
Scientists unveiled the genome of the soybean, saying it was an achievement that should deepen understanding of one of the world''s most important crops, help to boost yields and defend the plant against pests, reports the Associated Foreign Press. The study, published by the British weekly science journal Nature, provides a springboard for research into soy''s DNA structure and protein-making machinery, its authors said. Eighteen organizations, most of them American, teamed up in a 15-year endeavor that yielded a draft of 85 percent of the soybean''s 1.1 billion base pairs, the "rungs" in the double-helix ladder of DNA. More than 46,000 soy genes have been identified, including key genes involved in the transformation of water, sunlight, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and minerals into energy and proteins. One early breakthrough is the discovery of a gene that appears to confer resistance to a disease called Asian soybean rust, which can devastate up to 80 percent of a harvest. Another, more futuristic, benefit could be in a next-generation form of biodiesel.